In one month last year Americans spent 63.5 billion minutes engaging in social media. Drawing conclusions from another study, a January article in the Telegraph warned that people “are becoming increasingly addicted and dependent upon social networks.”
Online communication also can hamper college students’ growth and development, according to Barbara Hofer, psychologist and co-author of The iConnected Parent.
So how do we find balance? A technological fast could be one way of regaining perspective.
Karen Edmisten (@Karen_Ed), a home-schooling mother of three and blogger from Nebraska, offers these tips for online fasting:
• Tweet-fast: If Facebook and Twitter use is merely for recreation, “giving it up each Friday of the year or during Lent could be helpful in assessing its place in one’s day and one’s level of balance.”
• Book vs. blog: Edmisten will periodically weigh her book reading against her blog reading. “If I find that every time I sit down to read for enjoyment I’m reaching for the laptop instead of a book, it might be time for a fast.”
• Involve kids: Encouraging kids to decrease time on their favorite websites during Lent can help them learn about sacrifice in a way that is very immediate and real to them.
• Honest assessment: “My rule of thumb is that if Internet communication is causing me to say no to other good and valuable things that are right in front of me, it’s time to reassess my level of use.”
Lisa Hendey, CatholicMom.com founder, says some families forgo Internet use for longer phases when parental monitoring isn’t possible. Monitoring kids’ online activity “can be overwhelming, just as is teaching them math or making sure five kids have their teeth brushed every night,” she says. “Many families say, ‘We can’t supervise it, so we’re not going to do it,’ and that’s OK.”
For adults, it’s more a matter of self-control, according to Hofer. “Social media is only as consuming and invasive as one allows it to be.”
This article appeared in the July issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 76, No. 7, pages 28-32).